Since I heard that two influential German artists in the twentieth century, choreographer Pina Bausch and film maker Wim Wenders would create a film Pina by harnessing new digital technologies, I had waited impatiently for the day to release the film. It was not only because, since the huge success of James Cameron’s Avator (2009), I had had a passionate interest in ways how to employ 3D technologies in dance works, but also because Bausch was a choreographer who had rarely employed digital media in her works, as far as I knew.

Unfortunately, just a few months before the film went into production, Bausch died of cancer. Wenders then almost abandoned the film since the film was initially aimed to project Bausch’s ways of seeing the world through her choreographies, so he thought that there was nothing he could do without her. However, he changed his mind to start on the film as he realised that the film means much to her company Wuppertal Tanztheatre and Bausch’s family in terms of expressing her presence in personal lives of her dancers as well as her artistic influence on them.

The film focuses on her dancers each of whom speaks about Bausch in voiceover and then shows their solo or group movement sequences within a range of Bausch’s works.  CafĂ© MĂĽller, Rite Of Spring, Kontakthof and Full moon are filmed on the proscenium stage, but many of the performances are shot in outdoor locations including the suspended monorail in Wuppertal, a crossroad, a plant site, a cliff, a knoll, a riverside and so on. For example, a woman wearing pointe shoes performs in the front of the factory or a woman moves like a robot on the monorail where a man with fake long ears is seated. It was a shame that the film does not inform the titles of her choreographic works or even the names of the dancers, so I was not able to know which of Bausch’s works the dancers’ short movement clips are extracted from.

To talk about this film, I certainly should deal with a significant issue that the film brings up in the dance field, which is the 3D effect on dance performance. It was told that before Bausch died, Wenders decided to use 3D technologies for the film in agreement with Bausch. Getting inspiration from Catherine Owens’ and Mark Pellington’s 2007 concert documentary U2 3D, Wenders assured himself that 3D images could be more adequate than 2D images to convey the inner expression and dynamics of the human bodies in Bausch’s choreographies, only if the 3D is not used as a gimmick. From my point of view, in Pina the 3D works effectively to a certain extent. The judicious use of the 3D provides the film with the depth of stage performance and makes viewers to feel overwhelming physicality. Nevertheless, I doubt whether 3D is fully capable to capture high speed motions since the edges of furious and energetic motions become dull in some scenes.

Furthermore, Pina leads me to raise some questions. Although Pina shows that 3D images can augment physicality in recorded representations, I do not think the 3D recorded version can substitute for the liveness of the original. It thus would be necessary to carefully consider what kind of liveness 3D technologies could produce, which would be distinct from that of live stage performance. I look forward to seeing how choreographers employ 3D technologies in more diverse and experimental ways.

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Tate Modern has announced that British-born, Berlin-based young artist Tino Sehgal has been commissioned to create an artwork for the Turbine Hall project next year, as part of the London 2012 Festival and the finale of the Cultural Olympiad. Sehgal who studied political economics and dance in Germany becomes a phenomenon in art, having exhibitions all over Europe and the United States during a decade. Ahead of Sehgal’s commission work to be unveiled in July 2012, Tate Modern offered a four day workshop (20th – 23rd August) with Sehgal, which any ages and experiences could join in, so I applied for participation. The workshop taking place in Tate Modern comprised open discussions about a theme initiated by the artist and physical activities or games in relation to the theme. Since I am concerned about whether the workshop could relate to his Turbine Hall project which details have not been disclosed yet, this writing will illustrate why I got a distinct impression of Seghal’s artistic productions and approach, rather than reviewing my experience of the workshop.

The first time I learnt his name was at an exhibition Move: Choreographing You at the Hayward gallery in Southbank Centre last year, which invited visitors to physically experience installations and sculptures created by visual artists and choreographers who have contributed to contemporary aesthetics of art and performance. It was overdue to be aware of Seghal’s work since his works have been critically acclaimed since his first exhibition in 2000. One of the reasons I had heard of him belatedly was because he had presented works in the context of art institutions – museums or galleries. However, he does not produce material objects as works of art, but rather focuses on human voices, movements and lived experiences, which he refers to as “living sculptures”. He creates “constructed situations” in which visitors encounter actors whose are partly improvised but primarily governed by a set of rules Seghal establishes. For example, Kiss (2002) is a performance work in which two performers continuously enact kiss scenes from famous works of art. In This is New (2003), a museum attendant read out a headline from that day’s newspaper. In his latest solo exhibition, This Progress (2010) at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, visitors were invited to the museum’s iconic spiral ramp in which all the paintings were taken out for the first time. Instead of seeing artworks, the visitors are arranged to walk up the ramp while coming across and dialoguing with trained people from a child to a senior person.

Seghal’s performance-based works, not object-oriented works recall happening/performance artists in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman, and Allan Kaprow. Nevertheless, what differentiates him from the precursors is his objection to be called performance art. His practices qualify as visual art, by embracing traditions of art world: presenting a work during opening hours of a museum and being able to be bought and sold through a verbal contract with Sehgal. However, at the same time, he defies the conventional context of art institutions, by setting up complex and picky rules devised for his commissions: no photography, no recording and no catalogue are permitted. Seghal insists that ephemerality and irreproduciblity are exclusive natures of human embodied experience which he believes are destroyed in mediated forms. I found out a contradiction in his artistic approach since he refuses the conventional context of performance/theatre but embraces the orthodox notion of performance in terms of its ontological nature. His insistence on immediacy and disappearance of human embodied experience but also its ability to be sustained and to be owned reflects his political and philosophical statement. Relying on his recent artistic approach, I can assume that his upcoming work for Turbine Hall would include audiences’ active engagement in the work. Sehgal’s new work will be shown on 17th July until 28 October next year.

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The four finalists for the 4th Place Prize were selected from 16 works commissioned for the competition and premiered at The Place in September 2010. After ten nights of the finals in April 2011, Ben Duke & Raquel Meseguer (Lost Dog) won the competition and were awarded 25,000£.

Launched in 2004, the Place Prize is the biennale choreography competition which any UK-based choreographers can get into, regardless dance genres and styles or professional backgrounds. It was established to discover and support talented choreographers who develop their own idiosyncratic movement language and expression imbued with creative ideas. The object of the prize has been already achieved despite its short history. The former winners (Rafael Bonachela in 2004, Nina Rajarani in 2006, and Adam Linder in 2008) have been critically acclaimed and called for creating works for international dance companies. Also, one of the finalists in 2004, Hofesh Shechter, who was a relatively newcomer when he competed for the prize, has became one of the outstanding contemporary choreographers in Britain.

In terms of judging original artworks by the creativity, the Place Prize is paralleled with The Turner Prize in visual art and the Man Booker in literature. However, what distinguishes the Place Prize from the other arts prizes is to give audiences opportunities to choose their favourite work as like X-factor. The winner’s work It Needs Horses is about a dark side of circus performance featuring two contrasting characters, a male ringmaster and a female performer. Even though I voted Freddie Opoku-Addaie and Frauke Requardt’s work, Fidelity Project (It was really hard for me to choose between this and Duke and Mesequer’s work), I could expect that audiences voted winner would be Duke and Meseguer’s work. It is because the work It Needs Horses comprises a variety of theatrical elements  such as a narrative structure, humour, grotesque body images, and mimetic movements, which are enough to make strong impressions on the audiences. Indeed, Duke and Meseguer were chosen as audience voted winner nine times during ten nights of the final performances.

If you want to quickly grasp the trend and prospect of British contemporary dance, it would be a shortcut to check out the list of the finals(and semi-finals) for the Place Prize (the Place Prize Website: http://www.theplace.org.uk/placeprize).

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